More than 1,000 new Christian churches have been created over the last seven years, double the number of Starbucks coffee shops, new research has found.
About half of the new congregations were created by the Pentecostal churches, with help from other ethnic minorities such as the Chinese and the Croatians.
New initiatives such as “Fresh Expressions“, alternative worship services aimed at young people, accounted for a fifth of new congregations.
The remaining new churches were scattered among the mainstream denominations. About 450 branches of Starbucks were opened over the same period.
But before Church leaders start celebrating, the survey also found that slightly more churches had closed than had opened, with the Methodists shutting the most.
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Statisticians warned that it was difficult to calculate how many extra worshippers the new churches had generated as new congregations sometimes included existing churchgoers.
They added that the majority of the new congregations used existing buildings rather than constructing new ones.
The figures are initial findings from the English Church Census, a large scale survey undertaken by the independent Christian Research organisation. Peter Brierley, the executive director of Christian Research, said the findings were encouraging “but the losses in the older denominations are faster than the gains in the newer ones”.
The Pentecostal Churches, whose congregations are largely drawn from African communities in London, started nearly 500 churches since 1998, the research showed.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Nigerian-based group, is one of the fastest growing black churches with 210 “parishes” across London.
Pastor Agu Irukwu, the chairman, is also the leader of the Jesus House for all the Nations, based in Barnet, London, which attracts 2,000 worshippers every Sunday. He said the secret of church growth was lively worship and meeting the needs of the community.
The Methodist Church suffered a net loss of about 300 churches, and the Church of England fell by more than 100.